Launching the Ethnographic Case

Mattering Press is very happy to announce the launch of a new, experimental, Open Access book: The Ethnographic Case, edited by Emily Yates-Doerr and Christine Labuski. The interactive launch will take place at the Displacements virtual conference, the 2018 Biennial Meeting of the Society for Cultural Anthropology. The conference runs from April 19th to April 21st 2018. Throughout the event, the book will be featured as a conference ‘node’.

The book spans 29 short chapters and features a series of anthropological reflections on how the ‘case’ might be approached both theoretically and methodologically, examining how story-telling shapes knowledge and practice. An outline and table of contents can be read below. The book is based on posts that initially were published on Somatosphere.

The Ethnographic Case is an explicitly experimental endeavour, involving a process of live, open, post-publication, peer review. The book can be read and interacted with here: 

Explore the Ethnographic Case:

To celebrate its launch, all interested readers, including participants at the Displacements conference, are invited to provide comments and reflections on the book using the commenting platform provided. This will enable the authors to work towards a revised second edition which, as with other Mattering Press books, will be published as a more conventional Open Access book, available to download for free in a variety of formats, and as to purchase as a printed book at low cost. 

All reviewers will be acknowledged in second edition of book (if you do not wish to be included please let us know). 

Do I need to register for the Displacements conference?

There is no need to register for the conference to access the book. However, by registering for the conference you will receive full individual access to the conference program and its interactive features. The attendee registration fee is low, starting at $10 USD. You can register here (scroll down to ‘2018 SCA/SVA’). 

The Ethnographic Case

Edited by Emily Yates-Doerr and Christine Labuski
Available at:

A doctor injects turpentine into the leg of a dying patient; the patient lives and years later a granddaughter uses this story of survival to write a story of her own. A refugee is questioned in court for falsifying paternity; a cultural expert intervenes to develop a legal case for kinship that exceeds DNA. A caring father lives a powerful truth, though a filmmaker must misrepresent Ecuadorian prostitutes in order to share it. In all three cases, “the case” shapes possibilities for action. In all three cases, “the case” is different than it was the case before.

The Ethnographic Case challenges a widespread academic inclination to treat concepts as immutable mobiles. The contributions to this volume develop “ethnographic casing” as a technique of attending to heterogeneities in systems of thought. Medical cases. Legal cases. Briefcases. Detective cases. Some cases featured are violent, others compassionate; some set stereotypes in motion, others break them down. Connected more by difference than similarity, the “cases” in this volume make a case for the virtue of relational science. This is a science that is not beholden to the masters’ narratives, but which embraces the double-work of caring for detail, while caring for the practices through which one learns to care. In 26 gripping and provocative installations, the volume showcases research from numerous influential feminist and decolonial scholars. Where anthropology has long sought to identify patterns in culture, this volume makes space for inquiry focused on particularities and advocates for an intellectual politics where that which doesn’t fit is still allowed to matter.

Table of Contents

1. The Book-CASE: Introduction. Emily Yates-Doerr & Christine Labuski

2. Exemplary: The Case of the Farmer and the Turpentine. Annemarie Mol

3. Autophony: Listening to Your Eyes Move. Anna Harris

4. Encased: Plotting Attentions Through Distraction. Melissa Biggs and John Bodinger de Uriarte

5. No Judgments: Fieldwork on the Spectrum. Faye Ginsburg and Rayna Rapp

6. Facial Paralysis: Somaticizing Frustration in Guatemala. Nicholas Copeland

7. “He Didn’t Blow Us Up”: Routine Violence and Non-event as Case. Ken MacLeish

8. What’s in a Name? Ruth Goldstein

9. Normalizing Sexually Violated Bodies: Sexual Assault Adjudication, Medical Evidence, and the Legal Case. Sameena Mulla

10. Case by Case. Jason Danely

11. The Case of the Ugly Sperm. Janelle Lamoreaux

12. Waiting in the Face of Bare Life. Aaron Ansell

13. Crossing Boundaries: Making Sense with the Sense-able. Christy Spackman

14. Swamp Dialogues: Filming Ethnography. Ildikó Zonga Plájás

15. What is a Family? Refugee DNA and the Possible Truths of Kinship. Carole McGranahan

16. A Polygraphic Casebook. Susan Reynolds Whyte

17. Traveling within the Case. Atsuro Morita

18. The Case of the Cake: Dilemmas of Giving and Taking. Rima Praspaliauskiene

19. From Fish Lives to Fish Law: Learning to See Indigenous Legal Orders in Canada. Zoe Todd

20. Ethnographic Case, Legal Case: From the Spirit of the Law to the Law of the Spirit. André Menard and Constanza Tizzoni

21. The Enclosed Case. Elizabeth Lewis

22. Making Cases for a Technological Fix: Germany’s Energy Transition and the Green Good Life. Jennifer Carlson

23. Filming Sex/Gender: The Ethics of (Mis)representation. Anna Wilking

24. Three Millimeters. Christine Labuski

25. The Discernment of Knowledge: Sexualized Violence in the Mennonite Church. Stephanie Krehbiel

26. Earthly Togetherness: Making a Case for Living with Worms. Filippo Bertoni

27. Extractivism, Refusals, and the Unearthing of Failure. Teresa Velasquez

28. Fixing Things, Moving Stories. Jenna Grant

29. Conclusion. Emily Yates-Doerr